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GLL study: older people turning to exercise for mental health boost

By Tom Walker    04 Apr 2019
People place increasing importance on improving and maintaining their physical health as they get older

There is growing evidence that older people are taking up exercise in order to improve their mental health – with the social aspect of physical activity proving to be as important as the impact on physical fitness.

A study commissioned by leisure operator GLL compared the exercise habits of 2,000 people across all age groups and the various factors that affect their levels of activity.

It suggested that people place increasing importance on improving and maintaining their physical health as they get older, with 75 per cent of all respondents aged 55 and over giving this as a reason to get out and train, compared to 64 per cent of respondents aged 18-24.

However, the study also suggests that older people now place as much importance on exercising to boost mental wellbeing, as younger age groups – with 53.3 per cent of over 55s citing improving their mental health as a benefit of regular physical activity. This compares with 52.25 per cent of participants aged 18-54.

Those over 65 are also seeing the social benefits in taking part in regular exercise, with more than one in five (22.5 per cent) of older generations claiming that regular exercise is a great way to meet people.

Perhaps surprisingly, older people are also more confident in exercise alone than younger people. When asked about the barriers to taking more exercise, just 2.5 per cent of the over 65s said that they would be put off regular exercise by having nobody to go with – compared to 12 per cent of respondents aged 18-24.

Claire Ruocco, regional community sports manager at GLL said: “Anecdotally, we’ve always believed there are social and mental benefits to maintaining active lifestyles into older age.

“Now our research shows that older people are as likely to go to a leisure centre to make friends as to keep fit.

”With more awareness on tackling the causes of social isolation and boosting mental health, our active older people may be about to enter a golden age.”

GLL  older people 
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